02/04/2013, 00.00
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Democratic Party's main financial backer convicted on corruption charges

by Mathias Hariyadi
Siti Hartati, a businesswoman and head of the Indonesian Buddhist Forum Association, was sentenced to 32 months in jail and US$ 15,000 in fines. The scandal tarnishes the image of the president's party as the other major parties begin their own moralisation campaigns.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A Jakarta court sentenced Siti Hartati to 32 months in jail for attempting to bribe an official in exchange for the right to establish a palm oil plantation in Buol Regency, central Sulawesi. A prominent businesswoman and the president of the Indonesian Buddhist Forum Association (Walubi), Hartati is politically well-connected as one of the main financial backers of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party (DP).

For Judge Gus Rizal, there was strong evidence to convict her for corruption. In addition to 32 months in prison, she will have to pay a fine of 150 million rupiahs (US$ 15,000). For prosecutors, she paid a hefty bribe to Buol Regency chief Amran Batalipu to expedite the approval of her project.

For Indonesia experts, Hartati is the Democratic Party's main financial backer. Over the years, she has become a close associate of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. For the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), she was caught red-handed trying to corrupt Buol officials.

For the DP, this is another major headache since its leaders are already involved in recent scandals and investigations.

Corruption and kickbacks are widespread in Indonesia. In the past few weeks, the problem has become openly political as the country's main parties launch campaigns against the practice.

Last week, Lutfhi Hasan Ishaaq, head of the extremist Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), was arrested over bribes involving meat imports. The controversy led party leaders to force him to resign to save face, and the party's new chief, Annis Mata, went on 'national repentance' tour to counter the bad publicity.

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